His Master’s Voice?

Here’s how the official CPAC blog blandly described uber-lobbyist Grover Norquist’s speech to the gathering of the conservative tribes this weekend:

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, addressed the CPAC audience on the importance of not increasing taxes and electing a strong conservative majority in the House and Senate to cut taxes. Norquist predicted a conservative majority in the House will drive the agenda for the next 20 years.

But here’s the essential context, supplied by Republican heretic David Frum:

The most quoted speech at CPAC this year was Mitt Romney’s, but my vote for the most significant goes to Grover Norquist’s. In his charmingly blunt way, Norquist articulated out loud a case for Mitt Romney that you hear only whispered by other major conservative leaders.

They have reconciled themselves to a Romney candidacy because they see Romney as essentially a weak and passive president who will concede leadership to congressional conservatives

Frum goes on to quote Grover as follows:

We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.

Notes Frum:

This is not a very complimentary assessment of Romney’s leadership. It’s also not a very realistic political program: congressional Republicans have a disapproval rating of about 75%. If Americans get the idea that a vote for Romney is a vote for the Ryan plan, Romney is more or less doomed.

To date, sad to say, Romney has worked hard to confirm this image of weakness.

And as conservatives mull over the prospect of a Santorum nomination, you can expect to hear more of Norquist’s kind of implicit talk about the merits of a candidate whose endless kowtowing and apparent lack of strong convictions of his own might make him an ideal front-man for a prospective congressional majority that really just needs to get the veto pen out of Obama’s hand.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.